Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Big Sam’s and The Perfect Storm

By Kurt Epps, The PubScout

I had sold my last motorcycle some years ago, having no time to ride it. Now I do, and I had the itch to get a new one. I found one on eBay that was used, but it only had 1990 miles on it, and it was in mint—I mean MINT-- condition. The fellow I was dealing with was in Virginia Beach, so I'd have to go get it. His name was Oscar Barber and he ran, among other things, a self storage facility there.

I drove down to the commonwealth to seal the deal, and, besides arranging for the U-haul trailer that would carry my prize back to the Tax State, Oscar was nice enough to arrange for me to have an oceanfront room right on Virginia Beach—for just $49 for the night. The proprietor told me that my room would fetch $249 per night a month from now when The Season kicked in.

I got settled and Oscar, his son, Ricky and I went out to dinner to conclude the process. I know as many bars in Virginia Beach as Oscar knows in Perth Amboy so I let him pick the place. My only caveat was that it had to have decent beer. Oscar eschewed all the fancy places on the strip that charge July prices in April, and he pulled up in front of a ramshackle looking place called Big Sam's. I don't know how big Sam actually is, but if he was on the premises, from the outside, the place looked as if it could hold the three of us and maybe Olive Oyl.

Stepping into the place did nothing to dispel my original assessment. Four foot flames licked out from a galley on the right as two cooks dodged the fiery tongues and did their best to manage the meals. A quick look about as the waitress led us to our corner table revealed that Big Sam's was anything but. Still, it sat right on the water of the marina and the menu looked about as down home as you could get. The more I looked about, the more I felt a baseball-hatted George Clooney and his fishing crew from the ill-fated Andrea Gale might be having some beers at the next table.

It wasn't the fanciest of places, for sure. The best places rarely are fancy. But there was a definite charm about it that made it feel like a haven from life's storms. In fact, it was, because no sooner did we sit, than a monster thunderboomer broke over the whole area, with lightning flashes bathing the marina and its tenants in an eerie light. The rain was torrential, and the thunder terrific, but we sat safe and warm in the hands of a friendly waitress who made us feel like we were her relatives.

The beer list had a few good choices on it. I ordered a Sierra Nevada, and as it turned out, that classic matched perfectly with Big Sam's Hatteras Clam Chowder, quite possibly the best chowder of any variety I have ever had anywhere. Clear broth, chock full of delectable, tender clams and peppery to the palate, it might be worth a six-hour return trip just for that combo.

My Fried Shrimp were huge, succulent and perfectly done, so it was clear the "flame dodgers" out front knew their business. And whatever was in the batter also went perfectly with the beer from Chico, CA. The portions were massive—there must have been eight large shrimp on my plate.

We waited out the storm, although mostly oblivious to it, as we chatted and got to know each other beyond the basics of the business transaction, and before we knew it, the meal was over and it was time to leave the shelter of Big Sam's and head back to my room to prep for the next day's journey.

"Nice fellas, good men," I thought to myself, as I leaned back on my balcony chair, enjoying a cigar and watching the remnants of The Perfect Storm head out to sea. "And a neat place," I mused. Big Sam's was a perfect place to ride out that storm, too. I'd go back there in a minute, fair weather or foul.

I savored the moment. My only regret was that I didn't have another Sierra Nevada to increase the enjoyment of it.

Check photos out here.

©Kurt E. Epps 2010 All Rights Reserved

No comments: